WWII ship that sank with 1,000 Allied POWs on board discovered in South China Sea


The wreck of the Montevideo Maru, a Japanese transport ship that sank in World War II and claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Allied prisoners-of-war on board, has been discovered in the deep waters of the South China Sea. 

The ship was sunk in 1942 by torpedoes from an American submarine, which didn’t realize it was carrying prisoners; many of the dead were Australians, making the sinking the deadliest sea event in Australia’s history.

The discovery last week was the culmination of decades of effort, as some of the people on board were descendants of those who drowned in the sinking. “It’s been their life’s work,” John Mullen (opens in new tab), the founder and director of the maritime archaeology nonprofit Silentworld Foundation, told Live Science by satellite telephone from the search ship that found the wreck.

The wreck of the Montevideo Maru was discovered in mid-April, at a depth of more than 13,000 feet and about 60 nautical miles north-west of the large island of Luzon in the Philippines. (Image credit: Silentworld Foundation/Fugro)

Silentworld coordinated the latest expedition with support from Australia’s Department of Defence; Fugro, a Dutch deep-sea survey firm that supplied the ship and equipment for the search; and the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society, which maintains a website for the relatives (opens in new tab) of those killed in the disaster. “We’ve been working on it for five years,” Mullen said. 

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